control

Your best-laid plans.

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We all want to know the outcome.

Which means we miss out on so much.

In my graduate school work (and what I learn from the School of Life), I'm learning how much people fear change and uncertainty. To avoid this discomfort of failure and disappointment, we try to control as much as we can in life.

Which means we miss out on the awesomeness that would be available to us that we can't even see or anticipate. By trying to control everything, the outcomes, the actions of others, ourselves, etc., we limit our experience to the VERY LITTLE worlds that we know. The limited knowledge we've gained from our life experience is the stuff we subsequently try to create a life from--and we limit or prevent ourselves from experiencing the many thoughts, ideas and experiences that are way beyond what we already know.

We create best-laid plans to live these incredible lives according to what we think would be great or ideal or perfect but in reality, those plans can end up costing us. 

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Recently, I was developing a new idea for my business. I love working with people one-on-one and giving one-shot talks but I wanted something that was some kind of combination between the two. I started to develop it and kept trying to create a program strictly about nutrition and lifestyle habits because I thought that was all people would really be interested in. But I l felt like something was missing. It wasn't totally me.

I wanted to know it would be successful so I was trying to create something that would appeal to the most people. I was playing it safe with something easy and generic.

In the meantime, I was thinking all these deep thoughts and writing deep-thought papers about my life experiences and reflections and posting some of that on my Facebook wall and people were loving that stuff.

And then, out of left field, this opportunity fell into my lap. I was asked to support a local small company with getting their managers to know themselves better, work better together as a team andbecome even more incredible leaders during a period of major change in the company.

Wow. That isn't exactly easy and safe stuff. It requires some deep digging--the kind of work I love and am really good at.

Suddenly, it became very clear what I needed to be focusing on. More than a mere wellness program, this was a total synthesis of what I know how to do, what I love to do and what I've been doing since the inception of my career. I had never really considered people would want the depth of material I wanted to present.

Those best-laid plans I had been drafting based on what I thought people would want and what I thought would be successful--easy and safe--turned out to be limiting what was possible for me and my present and future clients. 

I don't offer easy and safe. I offer challenging and fun opportunities to grow and evolve because that's how I live my life. That's what makes me, me.

It definitely involves letting go of outcomes and opening myself up to failure and disappointment. But I'd rather experience those things than a lifetime of regret and "what-ifs" from trying to control outcomes too much.

What outcome are you attached to?

Is it even what you would enjoy the most if it happened? How do you know?

What would be possible or available to you (or others) if you let up on the reins and stopped trying to control so much?

When In Rome (or Fairlee, VT) Part 2/3

Just a few years ago, I had an incredible fear of food. I also had a fear of anything outside of my control. I see now, after a few years as a health coach, that those two things were intimately connected for me. The more I've worked on my relationship to food, the more the other life stuff settles a bit. And vice-versa.

It's been important work for me to invest in letting things go, including any obsessiveness I have over food. I lost a lot of this habit years ago, but the tendencies still came through in other aspects of my life. Yes, I don't count calories anymore, but my resiliency in a lot of life situations wasn't as...bouncy...as it could be, let's say.

When I went away recently to attend an amazing retreat with Pema Chodron, I ended up in the small little town of Fairlee, Vermont. The lodgings for the weekend were an old renovated motel overlooking a drive-in movie theater. The nearest place to eat in the mornings before taking a bus up to the retreat center was a local diner. We met some of the nicest folks you ever saw, but nothing but meat and fried stuff surrounded us for three days, except the vegetarian lunch served each day at the retreat.

The theme for the weekend became, "when in Rome" or, more appropriately, "when in Fairlee, Vermont".

I was there to celebrate one year of transitioning from female to male. One year of injecting myself with testosterone. One year of leaving behind a lot of familiar ways of looking, feeling, sounding and behaving. It was an intense weekend, and definitely one worth celebrating. That celebration included eating whatever was available.

One of the biggest changes I was celebrating was my ability to eat whatever was put in front of me with gratitude and humility. I also am grateful to be able to masterfully select healthy options, or whatever my body is needing most, from whatever is offered. This is new for me, and such a cooler way to live my life, in my opinion.

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The man who owns the drive-in movie theater/motel also owns his own farm a few miles away where he raises his own Angus cows. He sells hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fries and a whole bunch of other stuff out of a trailer to all the folks who come see the movie.

After a day of intense feelings, meditation and vegetarian food for lunch, this growing boy needed some beef, STAT.

I have to tell you, those burgers were some of the best I've ever had.

 

 

 

 

It gave me tremendous joy as we walked around into the yard from our room, scooped up some burgers and got to tell him how much we were enjoying our stay there, especially the burgers. On our second night there, his friend and grounds-keeper came up to me and shook my hand. He said, "we are so glad you are here." I wondered if he expressed that kind of gratitude for every guest but I was just happy he gendered me correctly to Brenda when he said, "make sure you keep him in line!" As it turned out, we think he knew I was trans*. He soon began talking about his daughter and how she was "different" but she was happy with her girlfriend and his ex-wife didn't approve...and, you get the picture.

At first I was disappointed, but I realized what was truly important wasn't whether I was passing as male but that I was being warmly received for being transgender. 

My spiritual practice teaches me to listen for the vulnerable gems people share. It's nice to not miss the love coming through in the message, since I'm becoming less and less focused (and attached) to hearing something specific.

 

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After a warm welcome like that, I have to highly recommend you head up to check this place out, if you're ever wanting an adventure.

Here's what it was like in the rooms (make sure to click the red 'X' to turn the sound on):

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After the third day of eggs or pancakes in the morning and burgers at night, I was craving fiber with a capital F. We headed for home and stopped over in Keene, NH where we feasted on salads topped with salmon from Keene Fresh Salad Co.

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The cafe owner serves vegetables from his own garden and prided himself on smoking the salmon himself the night before! Supppperr tasty! I loved this man's commitment to growing and serving local food, but he desperately needs a real website.

The week following this trip was jam-packed full of vegetables with meat making minimal appearances. Balance is everything and, for me, the key to living a fuller, happier and richer life.

As I celebrate a year in this new physical form, I'm also celebrating the massive transition inside to let go and live in the moment, including eating what's provided with love and gratitude.

 

 

Back When I Counted the Raisins

When I was in high school, I developed a serious eating disorder.

I've alluded to it here and there, but I've never really written about it--or shared it with any great detail.

Speaking with a prospective client the other night dug up some memories for me, particularly when he mentioned counting raisins. You might think it's silly. Or unnecessary. Or any number of things. But me? I got it. Because I once did the same thing.

What are the odds that he'd find someone to talk to who had the same exact experience? Maybe the odds are pretty good, I have no idea. But I can share how it affected me to sit across from someone who is so compelled and consumed by counting calories, that he's missing a lot of his precious life. And how I remember being in that same position. I remember being that stuck in something that felt so exhilarating ("hey! Look how good I am at this! I am so damn good at depriving my young developing body and mind of essential nutrients on a daily basis!") yet exhausting at the very same time.

I know that, for as good as I was at the game, I never got any damn medals for my meticulous calorie counting. There are no Eating Disorder Olympics, unfortunately. No awards doled out for how many days my weight stayed the same, the needle never budging from that precious and--extremely--important number over which it hovered. I got no Honorable Mention for the amount of time I managed to take to consume a bagel. A bagel. On average, they contain about 600 calories, give or take. To most people who are conscious of their nutrition in healthy ways, plain bagels wouldn't be considered an option, mostly because they are 600 calories of pure carbohydrates--nothing of real value unless I was running a 10K. But to my eating-disordered mind--bagels were on "the list" and believe me, I wasn't running any 10Ks. In fact, I had to quit my high school basketball team my Junior year because my weight dropped so low I couldn't hold my own against opposing teams. If you know me today, you would find this unimaginable--I am pretty stocky and incredibly fucking strong. And I had been that strong as a kid and teenager, too, but not when I starved myself to the point of losing all my lean muscle mass--you know, the kind that makes us strong and, ironically, burns the most calories.

Never knew this. Wish I had.

Instead, I allowed myself to fall down the rabbit hole of a sub-clinical (called thusly because I was never actually hospitalized for it) eating disorder. It was, in many ways, the opposite end of a scale I had been on as a kid. I maybe ate a bit too much sugar and sweet stuff than I needed to. I probably carried an extra 10-15 pounds I didn't need between the ages of 9 and 15, but it never was anything the Doctor spoke to my mom about. But let me tell you, he certainly spoke to her when I went from 165 pounds to a drastic 118. I can't tell you how long it took to lose that weight--I think a few months. I don't have much memory of that time. I just remember being very hungry, very tired, very confused and very angry. Nutrient deprivation will do that to you.

I remember starving myself most of the day and coming home late at night from hanging out with friends and standing in my pantry counting out raisins in my hand. Or bingeing on dry cereal right out of the box--never making the connection that the massive amount of late-night calories I consumed off-set the "great work" I did during each day.

None of it was rational or logical. None of it made sense. But it was my friend--it was the best friend I had when my life felt extremely lonely and challenging beyond what my teen brain could comprehend.

Many years later, I have conquered the obsession with calorie-counting. I eat and drink every day with no real clue about the calories I consume. I eat nutrient-dense, organic food as often as I can because it tastes good. I do it for my health. I still love sugar, and so I have to be mindful when I eat it--because it's also a friend I reach for in times of stress and confusion.

I am glad I struggled with that eating disorder--that compulsion to control my food when the rest of my life felt unmanageable. I am glad, so so glad, I know the visceral reality of that experience so that when clients talk to me about it, I can say with total honesty, "I get it. I really do."

But I am also glad I worked my ass off to end it. And I am glad that when I pour boiling water into my plain instant oatmeal--flavored now with a nice swirl of pure maple syrup and a pat of organic butter---that I don't have to count the raisins anymore.